EQ Artists - Autumn 2019 recap
Our Autumn 2019 recap includes short summaries from EQ Artists about their concert and opera work, as well as personal notes from the artists on how they are are tackling challenges and integrating EQ values within their professional lives.
Antoin Herrera-López Kessel
After a great premiere singing Stravinsky's Pulcinella at the Ojai Music Festival, my adventure with EQ continues this season to Stockholm, where I'll sing two performances of Pulcinella with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. As usual we have the opportunity to prepare this program at an EQ Intensive in Paris with the EQ team behind the scenes.
I'm also preparing the my debut as Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, at the Theater Basel. It's a great opportunity that I'm talking with Friendly Eyes to my self and enjoying the risk that I'm taking for this adventure. Coming up I also have a nice challenge ahead, performing Henze's El Cimarron here in Basel.
2019 has been a really exciting year for me both within EQ and out. I had the best time in Munich working alongside Barbara, the Munich Philharmonic and my fellow EQ young artists. I will never look at Mozart's 'Requiem' the same way! We spent a couple of days with Barbara preparing it before meeting the orchestra and so were able to put a huge amount of detail into our parts. I'm just hoping I can remember it all for when I return to the concert platform next year with Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France with Barbara and another set of EQ artists!
Just before setting off to Munich, I made my Royal Opera House debut in The Monstrous Child. This was a fantastic project to be a part of and I was so pleased to be there when fellow EQ artist, Trevor Bowes, made his ROH debut with only 24 hours notice. It was a pleasure to be by his side- his calm and beautiful performance was inspiring. Also this year I made my English National Opera debut as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, made my West Green debut as Isabella in Rossini's L'inganno Felice and returned to the Buxton International Festival in a Caldara piece.
My main 2019 excitement came from marrying my partner, Thomas Atkins. I know it's cliché that a soprano would marry a tenor but sometimes one can't resist a stable top C! Fellow EQ artist Kate Howden attended our nuptials whilst Elgan Llyr Thomas was a groomsman and treated us to some beautiful singing during the ceremony.
Looking ahead I have some fantastic contracts in the diary including Despina for Welsh National Opera and my first Susanna for a yet-to-be-announced summer festival opera. Here's to a happy and successful year in 2020 for us all!
I'm in the beginning of my first ensemble contract, a 2-year-contract at Theater Bonn in Germany, and I'm thrilled to finally be a part of the EQ family. Moving to a new country for a full time fest contract is challenging.
I've formerly been freelance, which has given me the possibility to be at home in Sweden during the periods in between contracts. Being with my family and having time to focus on studying the music and characterization of new roles. Now, as a part of a soloist ensemble, I learn how to juggle several parts at once, singing Strauss one night and Mozart the next, and constantly being away from my family. It feels like a boot camp!
My first role here in Bonn was the main role, Octavian, in Der Rosenkavalier by R. Strauss. My absolute dream role since I started singing, but also the biggest challenge imaginable. During the rehearsal period I was struggling a lot with self doubt and I turned to Friendly Eyes for help. It was such a step up in the degree of difficulty, both vocally and dramatically, compared to other main roles I've done, that I doubted whether I was ready for it up until the very week of the premiere. But then, in the beginning of October, I sang the premiere and got great feedback, my proudest achievement yet, and now I get to sing the role until February, parallel with Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and some other smaller roles and concerts.
Next summer I get to sing another exiting title role in a Swedish opera called Tintomara, composed in the 1970's by Werle but rarely (i.e. hardly ever) performed, at the beautiful Läckö Castle. It's a thrilling character and I love singing unknown music like this; music I can make my own. But before that I get to meet Barbara again and sing Mozart's Requiem with her and the wonderful Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
I have a lot to look forward to! 🙂
I'm looking forward to Der Rosenkavalier where I sing the role of the Polizeikommissar, which runs 09-29 February 2020. The legendary Zubin Mehta is conducting and André Heller has done a brand new staging. I'm very proud to be part of that star cast as well.
Later on I sing the role of Angelotti in Puccini's Tosca, also with great colleagues from the Berlin Staatsoper. 14 May - 03 June 2020
Around those performances I'm singing in Salome this December (with EQ singer Ziad Nehme) and then comes Die Zauberflöte and Chowanschtschina as well.
I'm doing am opera gala-tour in Norway with Arktisk Filharmoni (arctic philharmonic) 04, 06 and 08 of January 2020.
Not to forget is the Mozart Requiem with Barbara in Gothenburg in the beginning of April 2020!
I can't wait for our next Mozart requiem in Gothenburg, this time together with other singers and another orchestra! Since we had the luxury of getting a CD from the second concert in Copenhagen, I will take the opportunity to listen and compare, what is going to be different, over the time and with other people performing? I am also very thrilled that this time, Schönbergs Friede auf Erden is going to be part of the programme. A work which I recorded together with collegium vocale Hannover, back in the days (2014) when I was part of their chorus, and a piece which I absolutely love!
Before the Reqiuem in Gothenburg, I will have an exciting Debut in the Opera in Weimar (where I am now a member of the ensemble) , as Zerbinetta in R. Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. The staging will be crazy and something completely different!
I decided to start all over from the beginning with the Friendly Eyes Experience course, and am now farther than I came before. I notice how I am beginning to be capable of deciding where to put my mental energy so that it is of most benefit to me, and to take care of myself even better than before.
October brought big change in my life (this time not because of the opera season but privately). Our little baby girl was born over a month ago and now my life is conducted by her. I realised that from now on I have to be much more organised to be able to carry on also in my professional life. But I am sure everything is possible (with big family support). So already in January I am coming back to opera. My first project is Lulu by Berg in Staatsoper Hamburg, directed by Christoph Marthaler. The main role is sung by Barbara Hannigan. I am really looking forward for this revival, as my adventure with EQ started thanks to this production. During the rehearsals and premiere in 2017 I had my first opportunity to work with Barbara and after that project I got invitation for EQ audition. Thanks to that I could be part of the EQ The Rake's Progress production as Baba the Turk in Münich and Europe tour.
My next engagement this season is in March and it is EQ project: Pulcinella by Stravinsky in Stockholm. Before the concerts there will be EQ Summit in Paris. I am really looking forward for those days of intense work and amazing working atmosphere which is present for every EQ project. In April I am back in Staatsoper Hamburg for Blümenmädchen in Parsifal. Generally, this opera season is not so intense for me as the last ones, but I need that time in between for my family and I hope for many auditions for operas and projects in upcoming seasons.
After three years in the German fest opera house system, I’m returning to my eclectic roots and becoming a freelancer for the first time in my life. I’ve been named Associate Conductor of Cincinnati Opera, and I’m happily spending the first third of the 2019-2020 season in the States, where I’m (finally!) finishing my doctorate, conducting The Bartered Bride, and working on a lovely production of Walküre. I just conducted a workshop with musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony of Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande, in my new arrangement following the tradition of Schoenberg’s own Society for Private Musical Performances. I’m very pleased that my arrangement has the support of the Schoenberg family and will be published by Universal Edition – Schoenberg’s own publisher!
I’ll soon return to Germany to conduct a string of Nutcracker performances, work on a few exciting projects with Barbara, including her Lulu in Hamburg, as well as concerts and projects in Paris, Stockholm and Munich. As a pianist I’ll play once again with the Munich Philharmonic accompany a series of songs recitals with some of my closest singer colleagues. Following Barbara’s encouragement, this is my year to TAKE RISKS in pursuit of my “artistic destiny” (Barbara’s words), and that’s what I’m doing!
This season is my busiest yet! I'm so grateful for all the opportunities that are coming my way and am also trying to figure out how to keep my head above water as the pile of music to learn and memorize is dauntingly huge. So, I'm having to be extra disciplined about the way I'm learning new rep.
I'm currently in rehearsals with the Berlin Philharmonic and Kirill Petrenko for staged performances of Puccini's Suor Angelica; I am singing Suora Zelatrice and fellow EQ-er Aphrodite Patoulidou is also in the cast! We are working with the inspiring director Nico Huempel who has a novel vision of the piece and wants to make it relevant to women's rights/issues in the world today.
This season I am also debuting several dream roles, including Ottavia in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, the title role in Handel's Giulio Cesare with the NDR Radiophilharmonie in Hannover, and the title role in Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice with Cape Town Opera in South Africa.
For the first time, I'm also doing a lot of concert work with orchestra, debuting with the Munich Philharmonic (an EQ project!), Berlin Philharmonic, Hallé Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic, Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre Symphonique de Toulon.
And I also have some exciting recital debuts at the Concertgebouw (two recitals there with pianist Julius Drake) and in the U.K. with Roger Vignoles.
I'm realizing that this diversity of projects is what makes me feel most alive creatively as opposed to just focusing on one genre. And the cherry on top is reuniting with EQ friends and Barbara for not one, but TWO EQ workshops/summits in Paris in January and April 2020. Bring on the body work, Jackie Reardon's Friendly Eyes training, inspiring visits from guest luminaries and in-depth discussion/musical work with Barbara! I'm one lucky mezzo 🙂
Amazing to think that is it four months since I spent almost six weeks with the wonderful EQ team touring Europe, in Ojai and rounding it all off in one of my favourite places on earth, Aldeburgh.
In September I returned to Aldeburgh for a residency at the Britten’s old home, The Red House. I was there to record a set of songs I had commissioned for a song collective I co-direct called SongSpiel. The songs were video recorded in Britten’s library and will be released online as part of an ‘online space for song’ later this year!
After that I made an early start to the Messiah season on a fantastic tour around Japan (avoiding typhoons), South Korea and Taiwan with Les Arts Florissants and William Christie, 7 performances down and I’m looking forward to 10 more this year, this time with Freiburg Baroque and then the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. It’s a real treat to be able to explore one of my favourite pieces in so many performances and with three different orchestras all in one season. We may be a bit immune to Handel’s Messiah in the UK due to being bombarded with thousands of performances every year, but it is a truly fantastic piece and amazing to see what different ensembles and conductors bring to it.
This season I am singing Belinda in the choreographed production of Sasha Waltz’ Dido & Aeneas at the State Opera of Berlin – a dream to sing there since I first set my Greek provincial foot in Berlin 2,5 years ago. In the cast I am together with fellow EQers Ziad Nehme and Yannis François! Then I went to sing again a staged oratorio which is in my heart by now: Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle with Vokalsystem in Berlin. We joined forces with Johannes David Wolf a year ago, realizing our common vision for how religious music “should” be performed. I can only say I ended up singing “Crucifixus”, the first aria for the soprano, smoking a cigarette, in a church. May I be damned: It was really a pleasure since I stopped smoking 2 years ago, and now I can see that the work I have done with myself means I can smoke 3 shows in a row, without falling back to the habit. No addiction is fun.
I also started the next level of Jackie Reardon’s Friendly Eyes Mindset, “Experience”. I am now doing 15min of meditation per day -not missing a day! I am not going to pretend it is not challenging, yet the benefits for the mind and the soul are totally worth it.
In October I reunited with LUDWIG orchestra for a very special show in Utrecht Tivoli Vredenburg, where I sang Schubert’s “Der Leiermann” with the accompaniment of the hurdy gurdy player, Tobie Miller and in a cloak-like, gothic costume…watch the performance here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbsZwvGnS5E I then flew to Vienna to sing my first Liederabend ever with pianist Gulnara Arcaini. The program was mainly composed of songs by Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Grieg and Strauss. I usually perform mixed programs in recitals but this time I felt that I was ready to dive into the world of art song. I knew Gulnara since my time in Brussels and since then I knew I wanted to be on stage with her again. She is the kind of colleague I do not even need to look before starting a piece, I feel her energy and she feels mine. I am also singing Suor Infermiera next to my “hair sister” EQer Fleur Barron, in the staged production of Suor Angelica in the Berlin Philharmonic. The opera will be conducted by Kirill Petrenko and directed by Nicola Hümpel. Working for the Berlin Philharmonic and next to such huge artists is a dream I never dared to dream (and yet, I absolutely dared to audition for it! #nofear) I am currently preparing to sing Tango Gloria by Martin Palmeri under his conducting, and next to my Sensei, my vocal coach, Aris Argiris, in Bonn. Next year I am finishing school in a recital with a special mixed program of opera, lied, oratorio and contemporary music, and I have more shows as Belinda with Sasha Waltz in Ludwigsburg Festival.
Amidst all that, I made time for one of my passions: photography, mainly because of the people who came my way and inspired me to get back on creating images. I am also very proud to be amongst the recipients of the 2019 Opera Awards Foundation Bursaries. It is not only an honor to be trusted with such an award, but also a great help for my future planzzzz… x.x.x. #friendlyeyes #equilibrium #liveyourdreamρε #liveyourdream Aphrodite
The intense and “once in a lifetime” experience Rake’s Progress EQ Europe tour ended in May in Hamburg at the Elbphilharmonie, which along with Concertgebouw was the biggest highlight of the whole tour for me. I think I’m still processing the whole thing and I miss my EQ colleagues!
In the early summer I sang Zerlina at the Royal Opera in Stockholm and then begun my three year contract as part of the Soloist ensemble at the Gothenburg Opera. In August I came back to the role I debuted as in the same house; Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. It’s my favourite role in many ways (the more I sing it the more I like Susanna) and I think I never had so much fun on stage as in this brilliant production by Stephen Langridge.
A big debut for me was in October at the Concert house in Gothenburg where I sang Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem with Göteborgs Symfoniker, Peter Mattei and maestro Christoph Eschenbach! It was pure luxury to sing one of the most beautiful Requiems ever written with these two incredible musicians together with the fantastic GSO!
I also did my first recording for a record. I could never have imagined how much I would enjoy the work. The producer/sound engineer from BIS records was working with me and the pianist almost as a conductor and together we created the sound and did the musical choices. The unknown but beautiful ten songs we recorded are written by the Swedish composer Helena Munktell “Dix melodies”.
The rest of the autumn I have had some church concerts, including Mozart’s Requiem. And above all, I have prepared for my debut in December at the Oslo Opera house as Gilda in a new production by Ole Anders Tandberg with maestro Carlo Rizzi.
After this I was supposed to sing my first Musetta in La bohème but instead I will go on a BABY break and prepare for another huge, important role: being a mother!!!
In the autumn 2020 I will be back on stage again and I guess A LOT has changed by then. I still hope I can catch up and have the chance to meet Barbara and the rest of the EQ gang at some point before that, the community means a lot to me.